With my stint as a substitute teacher at an end, I got to look back at the path I traveled in unfamiliar shoes and think about what I learned. My respect for anyone who stands in front of a class has grown, as has my understanding of today's students. Included: Reflections from a first-time substitute.
In August, I began the process of transforming into a substitute teacher so I could learn what it is really like to stand in front of a classroom for six hours.
I certainly don't think that my nine days of subbing give me the right to call myself a teacher. Although, now that I've walked in a sub's shoes, I have a much greater appreciation for what they and all teachers do.
The wide range of abilities, personalities, and sensibilities in today's classrooms makes me wonder how teachers manage to remember everyone's needs and quirks without an Excel chart. Now I understand why most teachers start the day with a grande cup of coffee welded to their palms.
I would have to say the low point of my career as a substitute came on my first day -- it would be worse if it occurred on my seventh day, I suppose, because that would mean I really hadn't learned much -- when a little girl in a very rambunctious second grade class asked me if I wanted her to get her teacher from last year to help out. Eliciting pity from a second-grader, I thought, was about as low on the pedagogical food chain as you could get.
Many moments made me smile as well: A second-grade boy who welcomed me with an embrace and "I'm so glad you're not a dinosaur." In case you were wondering, yes, he was a handful, and I actually lost him on the way to lunch. An intrepid paraprofessional helped me get through that day without threatening to sell anyone on eBay.
And there was the fourth grade girl who casually mentioned that she woke up the day after Halloween and ate a lot of candy. "I'm pretty much back to my self now," she added.
Oh, and I chuckle when I think of the kindergarten teacher who, without missing a sentence in the story she was reading, said, "I didn't hear the flush," when a small person exited the bathroom.
I'm certainly not qualified to pass on any teaching tips, but I made a mental list of things for classroom teachers and administrators that I, at least, think would make substitutes' lives easier:
The year went quickly and I can't believe I am back full-time in my editor shoes already. While I wouldn't call sub shoes the perfect fit for me yet, now I know I would be willing to try them on again.